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Airship Manufacturing and Maintenance Facilities

The availability of suitable facilities for the construction and annual maintenance of airships or LTA vehicles is of utmost importance to the airship industry.  The historic sheds and hangars that were built during the first great period of experimentation with the airship concept are rare, with the majority that are still in existence being in the USA (see here for a list of existing facilities).

These sheds, so large that they reportedy contain their own micro-weather systems,  fulfilled several functions which will be needed in the future if we are to see the potential of the airship industry developed.  

It is important for Architects, planning authorities and building regulators/inspectors to understand the purpose of these structures, so that they do not apply inappropriate regulations to the design and build, and impose un-sustainable and un-necessary operating costs on the company trying to build airships. 


The primary purposes of an Airship Shed are to provide:

  • an assembly and inflation working space that is protected from the wind, rain and snow in temperate regions, or in desert/tropical regions to protect the workspace from wind, sunlight and rain.
  • covered crane system which can lift, move and suspend in place, large components for final assembley (in effect it is a vast jig)
  • to provide mooring points against static lift.
  • safe access to different levels of the assembled vehicle(s)
  • a sheltered environment where the temperature of the lifting gas is kept at or near ambient temperature.

It is NOT an indoor working environment, and there will be times when it is too cold/hot to work on a vehicle in the main space.

The only large scale structure designed to manufacture airships that has been built in the last 40 years, was the CargoLifter hanger at Brandt in Germany.  While an impressive structure in itself, it failed in its primary purpose.  There are many rumours about the bankruptcy of the CargoLifter project, and the reasons behind the bankruptcy;  in terms of a manufacturing facility it had a number of failings, because the building regulators and architects had no experience of building a structure for airship manufacturing, nor understanding of the requirements of an airship shed.  The primary failings were:

  • failure to understand that the structure is a covered jig.  (The clam-shell door-space which was regarded at ground-level as space available for construction, had no fixed overhead lifting capability)
  • decision to regard the covered workspace as factory/office space (imposing a whole additional layer of regulatory burden upon the operating company)
  • as a result of the main covered workspace being regarded as factory/office heating/air-conditioning had to be installed for a volume of 5.5 million m³ (194 million ft³)  where human activity took place in the lower 10 meters (volume of 660,00 m³ which is12% of the volume to be temperature controlled)
  • Opening the main shed doors of a heated shed on a cold day, reportedly resulted in such a movement of air, that any un-secured items in the hanger were possible hazards (up to and including carpets).


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